Pope Francis’ apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools is resonating with Indigenous people in southern Alberta.
Patricia Yellow Horn, a member of the Piikani Nation near Lethbridge, was heartened by the long-awaited news.
“I think that made an impactful difference to those survivors and it still hit me on a chord… I felt (it was) really good,” she said.
“I actually shed some tears when I saw that on the news.”
In the 1950s, Yellow Horn was one of thousands of children taken from their families and placed in the residential school system. She attended an Anglican-run residential school in Piikani for around nine years.
“We had to be so regimented, follow the rules and punished if we speak our language, and punished for different things,” she explained.
Since then, she’s learned to heal.
Then-primate of the Anglian church Michael Peers issued an apology in 1993 and former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper apologized to past students of residential schools more than a decade ago.
Yellow Horn feels these apologies helped bring her peace.
“I accepted it, because we have to move forward in life,” she said. “I know I left it in the past many years ago.”
But many continue to heal.
“Our survivors will continue to help each other in overcoming this great tragedy that continues to haunt our people,” said Blood Tribe Chief Roy Fox, who said he accepted Friday’s papal apology, but more still needs to be done.
“It has to mean more than just words, we’re tired of words. We’re tired of crocodile tears on T.V.,” Fox admitted. “We want some real action to occur, we want some real resourcing to occur, both from governments and from the churches that were involved.”
“We are on a journey of reconciliation,” said Adam North Peigan. “There’s still a lot more that needs to happen.”
North Peigan, also a Piikani Nation member, is the president of the Legacy of Hope Foundation. The organization works to educate and create awareness and understanding about the residential school system.
He believes Friday’s apology is a good step forward in a long road ahead.
“As a global leader within the Catholic faith, he does need to come to Canada and (apologize),” North Peigan said.
“It needs to happen in Canada, where we can gather our Indian residential school survivors and all those that have been inter-generationally impacted to gather in a place to bear witness to that historic apology that is forthcoming on Canadian soil.”
He’s also hoping to see the repatriation of Indigenous articles from Vatican City.
“Whether that be a rattle, whether that be a drum, whether that be an Inuit carving or a Métis sash — and those articles need to be repatriated and brought back to Canada, and placed where they rightfully belong.”